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The Last Windrow: Retirement age comes with benefits, and dangers

Harvest time is here or about to be here. I hope those of my "retirement" age think about safety as they venture to the fields.

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Someone asked me the other day what it was like to be retired. I had some trouble coming up with an answer.

My growing up years on the farm taught me that farmers and ranchers never really retired. They stayed on the land as long as possible, no matter what.

But as I've reached the age when my balance is not what it used to be, my hearing is a bit off and my eyes are not as sharp as they once were, I've found the reason why some folks decide to retire and head for the boondocks to spend the rest of their lives.

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The fall season brings to mind how age might affect a farmer or rancher's health. Farming has always been a dangerous business, especially at harvest time when the days are short and the tasks are hard and long.

Machinery has no conscience and cares not who might get caught in a belt or a chain or a power takeoff. Moving parts hooked up to horsepower give no quarter.

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Over my years on the farm I've experienced a number of close calls. Some of those dangerous situations turned out with only a bruise or a cut. Others produced injuries that stayed with the person the rest of their lives.

One instance came as I and two neighbors were unloading a silage wagon into a silage blower. We activated the blower and it was spinning rapidly when one of my "retired" neighbors decided to check the tension on the chain that pulled the silage into the blower.

He stuck the fingers of his right hand under the chain but as he did, the chain came under a "tightener" where the chain started the incline into the spinning blower. At once his hand became trapped under the chain and he was being pulled into the spinning machine.

My other neighbor, a big, muscle bound kid, saw the danger, grabbed his friend by the waist and wrenched him out from under the chain just before the man was going to be pulled into the blades. The injured man's hand instantly swelled to double its size, but he was saved from what would have been a grisly scene.

I remembered that lesson and it still gives me shivers today.

Another instance happened as I was helping a neighbor pick corn late in the season. I had unhooked a large wagon load of ear corn in the lot on a slight hill next to the corn crib and headed back to the field for another load.

In the meantime, my "retired" neighbor decided to move the loaded wagon a bit downhill to make space. As he picked up the tongue of the huge wagon it began to move on its own and my neighbor slipped on the icy ground and the wagon rolled directly over his knee.

When I returned from the field, he was gone from home. I found out afterward that the wagon had torn every cartilage in his knee and he limped for the rest of his life. The accident could have been much worse.

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One of my uncles was entangled in the power takeoff of his tractor, which stripped him free of his clothing. If not for the fast action of his son-in-law stopping the tractor, my uncle would not have survived.

My uncle was lucky, but he had nagging aches for the rest of his life.

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

All of these incidents happened to men of retirement or close-to-retirement age. We just don't move as fast or effortlessly than we did in our younger years.

Harvest time is here or about to be here. I'm hoping those of my "retirement" age think about safety as they venture to the fields.

Retirement age has its benefits. But also its dangers. Be safe.

See you next time. Okay?

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Opinion by John Wetrosky
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